On Failure

by scholastress

In this book I range from children’s animation to avant-garde performance and queer art to think about ways of being and knowing that stand outside of conventional understandings of success. I argue that success in a heteronormative, capitalist society equates too easily to specific forms of reproductive maturity combined with wealth accumulation. But these measures of success have come under serious pressure recently, with the collapse of financial markets on the one hand and the epic rise in divorce rates on the other. If the boom and bust years of the late twentieth century and the early twenty-first have taught us anything, we should at least have a healthy critique of static models of success and failure.

Rather than just arguing for a reevaluation of these standards of passing and failing, The Queer Art of Failure dismantles the logics of success and failure with which we currently live. Under certain circumstances failing , losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world. Failing is something queers do and have always done exceptionally well; for queers failure can be a style, to cite Quentin Crisp, or a way of life, to cite Foucault, and it can stand in contrast to the grim scenarios of success that depend upon “Trying and trying again.” In fact if success requires so much effort, then maybe failure is easier in the long run and offers different rewards.

-Judith Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure, p. 2-3.